Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free flight

I was doing an onsite visit this past week for one of my freelance writing accounts. This particular site visit was one of those borderline surreal experiences, as it was a wedding venue straight out of a fairytale. Picture a sweeping estate harkening back to the days of the Old South era, complete with winding drive, rolling hills with manicured and professionally landscaped grounds, a vineyard, various pavilions, gazebos, gracious circular drive and triple-tiered fountain, all leading to a stately manor atop the highest point of the property. It was enough to make any feminine heart sigh in delight, picturing her wedding in this lovely setting.

The day itself was what I call a soft, gray day. Most people find this type of weather a nuisance, but I love soft gray days. They are similar to snowy days in that they soften the edges of the world, dampen the sounds around us and slow the pace a wee bit. We had unseasonably warm weather for January that day, which caused winds to whip up and provide a brisk outdoor viewing of the estate. Since my job is to write glowing reviews and descriptions of this property, I walked around extensively, drinking in the wide expanse of the grounds. For some reason, I glanced skyward and spotted four hawks. I don't know if you've ever had the opportunity to watch birds gliding the winds on a blustery day, but it's something I have always enjoyed. I stood there, at the top of that highest bluff and just watched them.

They were loving the weather, their wings outstretched as they glided about, carving lazy, elegant wheeling loops across the sky. I found myself just smiling at the sight, something deep inside of me touched and brought to a very bright moment of peace. The soft gray light of day, the whipping winds tangling my hair and bringing rosy color to my cheeks, the lovely backdrop of this incredible estate....and those beautiful hawks up in the sky, playing and skating the winds for the simple joy of it all. All of these individual details combined to create one diamond sharp instant in time for me and I doubt that I shall ever forget it. For that moment, I breathed in damp, fresh air and watched a performance thrown by nature, and I simply soared along with it all.

Does this sound overly dramatic? Absurd for a grown woman to suggest it possible to step into this dance of nature and become an element of it all? I don't see it as either - this is how I view the world.  Magic does exist and I will not be convinced otherwise. To me, moments such as these are meant to be embraced with all our senses, and that's exactly what I did. It was glorious. Even the trees surrounding the estate were doing their own gentle, elegant waltz as the winds shifted them to and fro.

I stood there, living in that moment for what felt like a separate eternity. Eventually, the four hawks moved on across the sky and disappeared. I am sure they will return to that stretch of sky and take full advantage of the wind patterns, and if I'm lucky, I'll be there occasionally to witness the beauty of it all again. This one day, however, this soft gray day of mine, will never exist again. I have it in my mind's eye and I am now attempting to paint it with words for you to share. My written efforts fall quite short of accurately describing the sheer bliss of the moment I experienced, that free flight of those four hawks.

My day continued and I was pulled back into the real world of cell phones jangling, clients wanting to schedule appointments, traffic snarling its way around the city and deadlines looming. I tucked that day away in my heart because the deep, lasting sense of peace continued to radiate inside me. I feel it even now, as I write these words. The energy of it pulses inside me and I recognize that I was sent a very profound message that afternoon - I felt a divine presence embracing me with a palpable touch.

For whatever reason, I was given that incredible moment, a nod, an encouraging touch, a thundering whisper that brushed against me and said,

" still...this is your moment...your free flight.  All things are possible."

My throat tightens now, and chills touch my arms from the memory. The message was clear in some ways, inscrutable and cryptic in others. The example of those four hawks swooping and gliding for the pure enjoyment of the experience reminds me to embrace doing what I love with equal abandon. Their eventual progress into the distant sky also reminds me that there is more to do, experience and explore.

If we're lucky, we might have a handful of these experiences in our lives. I am like most people, sometimes wondering if I'm making the right choices, wondering at the outcome of actions set into place. Witnessing this free flight in the sky scrubbed away some of those worries and concerns and lightened my heart. I will remember this lesson, this dance on the wind, and continue my own free flight into the vast expanse of the future.

And I will remember....all things are possible.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy 101 - Blog Award!

I was given a lovely blog award today!  I know that many bloggers feel that blogging awards are too time consuming, unnecessary and just superfluous.  I can honestly say that I doubt I will ever become so jaded as to refuse an award that is given with genuine kindness and enthusiasm.  In light of this, I admit to feeling flattered and honored, which is how you should feel when someone gives you an award!

There are a few simple rules to accepting the Happy 101 blog award.  My first step is to write this blog today, and list the top 10 things that make me happy, then go on to share 10 blogs that I enjoy reading.

So, first things first - My Happy List:

My family - I am blessed to be part of a very large, loving Irish clan of people who are, in my opinion, the most wonderful, loving group in the world.  When I was a child, I always felt sorry for anyone who hadn't been lucky enough to be born into my family...that's how special the Reagans are!  We come together often, laugh often and purely enjoy one another.  It doesn't get better than that.

My curiosity - my whole life has been driven by this force.  I am curious about everything under the sun and because of this part of my nature, I have enjoyed learning, researching and experiencing so many fascinating things.  The truly exciting part of this side of my nature is that I'll never learn it all and there will always be new vistas to conquer!

My loving nature - this would perhaps be a subset of my family foundation, but I choose to call it a separate entity on the Happy List.  I know that one of my strongest gifts is my ability to love, and it is often commented upon by those around me.  If people are going to comment about something about your nature, I would certainly wish for it to be such a positive thing as the ability to express love!

My home - I live in East Tennessee and feel it is beautiful beyond words.  There is a peaceful vibration to this area that is tangible, and although I have lived many other places, this is where I have always returned to live.  It heals my Soul and makes me the happiest to live here.

My creativity - I'm a writer and an artist of sorts.  William Butler Yeats said a beautiful thing:  "I am a man well-blessed and content, for thank God I can read."  I would add, "...for thank God I can write and create."

My friends - an equal blessing, as they are all such unique, fascinating individuals who bring startlingly lovely shades and textures to my life. 

Music - it soothes the savage beast, or so they say.  For me, it is an extension of the writing process, because in my head, the words take on a musical quality.  I even wrote a blog about this, entitled  "Musical Thoughts" last year.  I climb deep into the heart of the lyrics and hear the infinetesimal shifts and layers of sound in the music - everything about music delights my Soul.

Growth - I am thankful and happy on a daily basis that my life is constantly moving forward in growth and experiences.  I am happy that I choose to be brave enough to keep walking foward, even during the times that those steps take me into moments of gloom, or hardship.  Stagnating as a person is something that I assiduously avoid, so I kind of like the fact that I continue to forge onward!

Hugs - they are essential to life, as far as I'm concerned.  Being embraced by someone you love, who loves you in return, gives the opportunity to become enveloped in the pure energy of love combined.  That creates a unique energy that blesses the hugger and the huggee and the world is a better place because of it...we are better people as a result.

Sunshine - this is a childhood nickname I was given because I have a happy outlook on life.  I consider it part of my spirituality and awareness.  I choose to embrace dreams, continue to develop my own spiritual awareness, embrace laughter, positive thoughts and practice living my life in a manner that attracts good, positive people and experiences.  That can be boiled down to that one word...Sunshine.

The second part of the award process is to choose 10 blogs and post them here, with links and a short blurb about why you like them.  I may end up duplicating some of my choices that others have also mentioned, but I'm choosing them in good company!

Coffee with Marty - Marty's blog is his POV on the world as he greets each day with a steaming cup of coffee.  Marty is also my trusted partner in crime with our Facebook group, Authentic Blogger, so obviously I like the way he thinks and approaches all things bloggish!

Journey to Joy - Bill's description reads, "In this blog I share what I've learned in my life to be a more positive/joyful person living each day to the fullest & staying connected to my soul."  He offers some good, old fashioned, homespun advice with a twinkle in his writer's eye as he invites you to share the humor in his perspective.

Speech of My Fingertips - Surein is in Malaysia and as such, on the opposite side of the world from my home in East TN.  He writes these fascinating, conversational blog posts about his home in such a way that I get to visit there vicariously.  I learn something new with each of his posts, and I love that, but I also love his sense of humor and his unique perspective.  Here is his description of his blog:  "I believed Robert Heinlein when he said that writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. My mind is as fickle as a Malaysian traffic light. To keep in touch with my own thoughts if I forget, I write here."

Artisan of the Human Spirit - I just discovered Tony's blog about a week ago, via two different blogging buddies.  Tony's blurb on his blog reads, "Awakening to life's lessons. In life, not every classroom has a desk, nor every church a steeple!"  I enjoy his thoughtful approach to ruminating on the path he has taken to reach his here and now, and I also enjoy his dry sense of humor.

Michael's Kitchen - my good friend, and special Papa, Mike's description reads, "My life in my Kitchen and my take on food, cooking, kitchen tools, and the whole food thing.... And Please remember to always practice safe lunch...... USE A CONDIMENT!!!"  He writes delicious recipes, shares great tips and makes the idea of venturing into the kitchen to prepare something fancy seem to be not so scary.  He makes me laugh, too.  Mike is also the kind soul who gifted me with this Happy 101 blog award, so thank you, Papa!

Jeff Nix - Jeff writes some very thought provoking posts, with my personal favorites being those in a series that he calls "Inspired" posts.  His blog has a variety of topics, so pull it up and poke around.  I know you'll find something to capture your interest.

Spirit of Autism - my friend Debi describes her blog as, "Spirit Of Autism is a resource and home therapy program for parents, caregivers, and emergency responders dealing with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette's, and other pervasive disorders."  Even if you're not dealing one of these issues yourself, Debi's information is applicable to everyone.  Dealing with learning disorders or behavioral challenges have lessons to teach everyone.

Learning How - Jenn is venturing into becoming a programmer/designer and her Learning How blog provides helpful tips and suggestions for blogging.  I love her posts and always learn something new when I visit.

Thyme for Health - Thyme's description reads, "A Master Herbalist who lives and travels in a motorhome with Nandi, her hairless cat, and shares information and advice for being and living healthy."  She writes blogs on some of the most fascinating topics, from herbology, to aromatherapy, to healing and spiritual properties of all of the aforementioned.  I truly enjoy her blog, as I learn much when I visit.

Moonbeam Soy Candles - my southern sister-friend in Georgia is working hard to create a successful company that offers soy candles and much more.  I like the fact that her products are eco-friendly and green.

Those are my choices, in no specific order.  I hope you get the chance to visit some of them - tell them Dawn sent you!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who says?

Rules.  They're everywhere, have you noticed?  Do it this way.  Don't do it that way!  Insert Tab A into Slot B to create a neat little box. 

Suggestions seem to naturally follow rules.  Helpful comments from complete strangers, or even worse, from close friends, telling you, "This is what you need to do."

Who says?  That's my invariable response when I've had it up to the proverbial "here" with the rules and helpful suggestions.  Have you ever noticed, by the way, that those "helpful" suggestions quite often turn out to be ridiculously obvious methods that, hey, little old you thought of years ago? OR they're so absurdly not-helpful that you feel yourself on the verge of turning into the Tasmanian Devil and drilling a hole in the floor?

Meet my stubborn side - happy to know you.  If you're a close friend, you're quite aware of this side of my nature.  Okay, I will admit that there are certain moments where I'm a big fan of having everything fit into a nice, neat little box formed by Tab A and Slot B.  Those moments tend to be more of a personal nature for me, and fall into the category of feeling that I've educated myself thoroughly on a given subject.  That's when I adore neat little boxes because it gives me the sense that I have accomplished what I set out to do with my latest exciting venture.

I also admit to being a big planner in other areas, such as writing down on the calendar when I'll be meeting someone for lunch, or a business meeting.  A girlfriend has been known to good-naturedly point out that, "If I let you, you'll schedule dinner plans for us a good six months down the road, week by week!"  (Just so you know, she doesn't let me, but she's right, I would probably try.) Well, that's a different area of life we're discussing, and yes, I'm very enthusiastic about that particular type of thing. It's because I'm your closet-bound, overly responsible, dependable-as-the-rising-sun type of person. I suppose it could be argued that planning and rules are two separate categories. I wouldn't disagree. Beyond these described sets of circumstances, and particularly when it comes to my writing, I'm not a big fan of rules.

As a writer, I'm probably right out there on some subversive fringe when it comes to following writerly rules.  I do not....brace yourself, and picture me whispering the following....write from an outline.  I know, it's very scandalous.  If "they" knew, "they" would probably find a way to revoke my invisible membership and bar me from being able to claim writerly status.  Most certainly, they'd take my secret decoder ring.

Yes, that is the among the first set of rules for creative writing that we are taught in school, to write from an outline, and those rules grow longer in college writing courses.  Outlines, footnotes, bibliographies...rules, rules, rules.  I bowed down to those rules in school, but my writer's soul would shudder in distaste, dreaming of the day that I could be shed of those restrictions and burst free in a riotous splash of color, style and verve.  My heady swan dive off the high platform formed a beautiful, classic arc in mid-air and I plummeted straight into the deep pool of....technical writing.  There perished any chance of winning a writerly Olympic medal for color, style and verve.  I think that at the very least, I could have been a contender for that Gold medal.

You guessed writing is the Mecca of rules.  RIGID, unswerving, unbending...rules.    So, I soothed myself to a degree by flouting what rules I could.  The first and foremost of those is that I still stick to not using an outline.  It bugs the fool out of me and I see no good reason for an outline. You may feel differently and embrace outlines with great affection. If so, have at it, my friend!  My brain knows that I have a beginning, middle and logical ending to any written document.  Rather than outlines that waste my time, I prefer to take notes.  I guess this could be construed as a form of outline, as I do refer to those notes as I write. 

For me, the pure, heady pleasure of writing is that when I sit down to write anything, be it a formal technical document, a blog for myself, an article for a client, a journal entry, or a manuscript for a book idea, I only know the beginning and ending.  What I don't know, in exacting detail, until I write it is what happens to get from the beginning to the ending - that's why I write!  I'm on the same ride, the same fascinating journey, as my readers. 

Therefore, when I hear the helpful comments of, "You should do it this way."  Or, "You need to think about adopting this method."  Or, "I think that this works best and you should do it this way from now on." instant reaction, at least mentally, is, "Who says?"  I'm being honest here!  I am not being so bold or churlish as to say that every snippet of advice offered to me is summarily rejected or ignored.  I certainly do not think I know everything about anything, and I am the first to admit that I learn new techniques about writing on a regular basis.  I'm being overly facetious, peppering here and there with tongue in cheek comments, I admit that freely.  I rarely give voice to this side of my writing nature, and tonight I just felt like doing it. There's a time and a place for the lighthearted approach to life....and blogging.

Here's my main point...what I DO know a lot about is myself.  I know my own writing style.  I know how my mind works in the creative process that is unique to me.  None of my clients need to know, nor would they care most likely, that I don't use an outline when I write their documents, manuals, etc.  All they care about is that the end product meets their criteria.  When advice is offered, I do what most people do - I listen, and if I find the content worthwhile, I'll incorporate it into my life.  If I find it to not be worth adopting, I discard it.  The sky doesn't fall if I don't embrace every suggestion that is helpfully offered to me about how I decide to structure my business day.

When it comes to creative writing, such as this blog or a manuscript, I embrace the open-ended style even more.  I usually have an inspiration that gives me my starting point, but I rarely know how the finished blog or manuscript will end.  In fact, when I started to write this very post, I had a completely different idea of where the content would go, and it was nothing like this finished version.  The beauty there is that I will be able to pull that original thought back out for a future blog.  I rarely sweat small details such as an article turning out differently from my original expectation.  Indeed, I'm usually delighted when that happens, because the unexpected result generally turns out to be superior to my original concept.

So, those pesky rules....who says that we have to listen to them?  With technical writing, yes, I do follow rules.  Certain writing methods do demand that you follow rules.  When it comes to creative writing, however, I say find what works best for you.  Embrace your unique style and create a routine, or lack thereof, that works best for you.  That would be the advice I would offer, if asked.  Then, those who listen to my advice have their own opportunity to smile kindly at me, while mentally rolling their eyes and sighing out their own, "Who says?"   And now that I'm thinking about it, I still think my swan dive off the high platform was a thing of beauty, because it was uniquely mine.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The magic of Samuel Clemens

I go through stages where I become engrossed in one or two authors or poets, and tend to use many of their quotes as points of inspiration for blogs, or just to throw out on my Facebook and Twitter posts to share with friends.  One of my lifelong favorite authors has always been Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), he of Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer fame.  All American school children read at least one of his works at some point in their primary educational years.  I went steps further and began to learn more about Samuel Clemens, the man, and find that after a lifetime of learning about him, I continue to uncover new, interesting details. 

The most entertaining thing about Mr. Clemens and his alter ego, Mark Twain, is the sheer volume of witticisms that exist and are attributed to him.  His sense of humor leaned decidedly towards the dry, sarcastic, deprecating observations of life.  Whenever I feel in need of something to lighten my spirits, I almost always turn to my journals of quotes that I have written over a lifetime, and a large number of those recorded quotes are from Mark Twain.  He always makes me laugh, and many times makes it clear that regardless of the times in which he lived, his quotes could easily apply to this modern age.

“Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.”

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

“There is a good side and a bad side to most people, and in accordance with your own character and disposition you will bring out one of them and the other will remain a sealed book to you.”

"I'm glad I did it, partly because it was worth it, but mostly because I shall never have to do it again."

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”'

“Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

“It's spring fever.... You don't quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
Those are just a few of the quotes I have copied down over the years that Mr. Clemens shared with the world.  His point of view, sometimes lighthearted, other times harsh and condemning, always has the power to make me laugh, or to stop and ponder.  He lived a life that was full of excitement, travel, success, failure and many tragic moments - he lost three children and outlived his beloved wife.  He was known to have poor judgment in business investments and was always one step ahead of financial distaster throughout most of his adult life.  Fortunately for us, he was a prolific writer throughout his lifetime, toured the world on a highly publicized lecture tour and was often quoted.  We are the benefactors today of all of his efforts. (The Mark Twain House website)

I remain an appreciative audience of Mr. Clemens/Mark Twain simply because he has always provided me with small moments of genuine laughter.  I value those moments so much, and love to share them with others.  Life isn't always meant to focus on the somber, ponderous, grave topics - we have those aplenty.  Therefore, why not take little snippets of time to stop, be carefree and page through books of thoughts such as the ones above and a few more that I couldn't resist sharing...

“I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.”

“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, 'I don't know.'"

“We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.”

“Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one I think it is.”

“I have seen slower people than I am and more deliberate... and even quieter, and more listless, and lazier people than I am. But they were dead.”

“I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”

I am thoroughly charmed, teased into laughter on days that I might be feeling sluggish and run down, and quite often wind up belly laughing at some of this man's thoughts.  I think, had I been given the chance, that I might have enjoyed talking with him face to face.  His words remind me that life is meant to be enjoyed, that the oftentimes bizarre or even frustrating days that are handed to us also offer humor, if we care to look for it.  I will continue to be a fan and student of Mr. Clemens' works for the rest of my life, and no doubt, if you're connected to me on social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter, you'll see me posting quotes of Mark Twain fairly often. 

I simply felt like writing a blog that didn't have a deeply meaningful, socially constructive theme to it.  Rather, I wanted to concentrate on the simple act of embracing little things that make me smile.  Mark Twain's quotes fall into that category, and as such, I leave you with one final thought:

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It changed everything

The title of this blog post above is taken from a great newsletter email that I receive regularly.  A girlfriend told me about this website that sends affirmations that are tailored to your personal wishes and dreams.  The website is called Tut's Adventure Club.  You register with them, fill out a brief form and then you begin receiving these wonderful, positive, happy emails from The Universe.  I encourage anyone reading this post to check the website out at the link provided above. 

Now, to get back to my point.  Today's email from The Universe was as follows:

"Thanks, Dawn, for every single time you ever fell in love.  Whether or not it was obvious. Whether or not it lasted. And whether or not you were loved back.  It changed everything." Notes from The Universe
That was such an electrifying comment to me!  How beautifully simple and concise a thought to ponder.  We as humans are more apt to focus on the attendant baggage of love, aren't we?  "I loved him, but..."  or "It was almost perfect, except for..."  or "If only..."  or "What if..." Do any of these sound familiar? Who hasn't had at least one, if not all of those thoughts? It's so much easier to get distracted with all the detritus of a romantic relationship, and indeed, many of those details are very important and deserving of our focus. There is so much more, however, to remember from past relationships, with much of it being positive. 

This note from The Universe in my Inbox just stopped me in my tracks.  I call those "polarizing moments", where a thought, a book, a remark - something grabs your attention with such impact that you are literally forced to stop and ponder.  Personally, I love those moments.  They cause me to consider different angles and perspectives that I might not have reached as quickly if left to my own slower approach. I might end up not agreeing with the polarizing moment, I might not adopt that new perspective, but I always come away from those moments changed.  I always learn something new about myself.

How refreshing a perspective from which to view love.  If we're alive, we're going to meet people, fall in love, fall out of love, be blissfully happy, plumb the depths of despair and feel every minute facet, shade and nuance of love.  Love found, love lost.  The loves lost are usually ones that spark feelings of regret, anger...a whole boatload of negative emotions.  How freeing, may I say, is it to draw an imaginary mark on our personal journey or calendar and say that perhaps this is the moment that I learned to think about past loves in a completely different light?  I kind of like that idea.

We are all the sum total of our experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly.  Change an experience and you change who you are today.  Obviously, we can't turn back time and cherry pick the moments.  I think most of us can admit that the difficult times, difficult relationships and memories taught us valuable life skills.  "I'll never do THAT again!"  Right?!  I've had plenty of those epiphanic experiences, haven't you?  And I'm a more balanced, more richly evolved person as a result. 

Today, as a result of that lovely email from The Universe, I am reaping one of those unexpected lessons that I always find such a delight.  I've shifted my habitual tendency to view past loves with predominantly wistful perspective.  Mind you, I don't dwell in sadness or negative thoughts in regard to every single romantic relationship I've had - many of them make me smile when I look back. 

I just happened to feel very struck by the quote above - having loved anyone, anything, anytime, is never wasted or misplaced energy.  I have always firmly believed that to be written in stone fact.  I do not regret loving anyone.  I have, however, regretted some of the outcomes.  The above quote magically lifted that need from my heart - it is simply unnecessary.  Instead, I choose to focus, from this point forward, on the fact that by the simple, open hearted act of loving, this can be nothing but positive, uplifting and lasting.  Perhaps we might not see the repercussions and outward ripples of our moments of love, but they happen.  Perhaps we cannot reach into someone else's heart and change their perspective to just simply appreciate the fact that love was given and received.  Indeed, we can change nothing but our own perspective. I would suggest that by shifting how we feel about those past loves doesn't mean the bad stuff ceases to have happened - it just means that we can release some of the burden we've carried in relation to those past loves.

I am not, by any means, intimating that if you have lost a loved one to death, that you should not grieve that loss.  That is a process all its own and deserves your time and attention to reach a balanced point of acceptance.  I will say that I see, quite often, people who have become stuck in the grieving process to the point that that is who they become - "My name is...and I lost this person to death."  They cannot move beyond the grief to recognize that they are no longer the vibrant, wonderful person their loved one would wish them to be today.  So, I say this gently to everyone reading this post - if you have lost in love, whether it is because one person needed to move on apart from you, or whether it was from losing a loved one to death - think of shifting your perspective.

I'm sharing the quote above with you in the hopes that it gives you one of those moments to ponder that I experienced myself. It is up to you how you receive the statement and how you feel, think and react to it. One immutable point is this: if you have loved, you are/were existing in the most positive energy it is possible to feel on this planet. We cannot see love, except perhaps in the happy faces of the ones upon which we bestow this gift. Love isn't concrete or tangible to touch, unless maybe we're talking about loving touches, embraces, etc.

Rather than eternally grieving the loss of any love, endlessly looking back with regret, for anyone or anything, contemplate celebrating that love existed. Let me repeat that I am not writing this to tell anyone how to think or feel about love.  I was changed by the email message in my Inbox and wanted to share it with you. Celebrate that love has happened numerous times in your life and recognize it in a positive manner.  Be joyful! Love is an energetic presence.  It has a physical, lasting energy that never dies.

And that does change everything.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The beauty of 2009

Practically everyone I've talked with in the past eleven days of 2010 has mentioned that 2009 was one of the most difficult years of their lives.  Instead of focusing on the negatives of last year, what I want to focus on is an occurrence in 2009 that gave us one of those polarizing, uplifting moments as a nation.  Last night on TLC cable channel, there was a one hour show on Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of Flight 1549, known collectively around the world now as The Miracle on the Hudson

For anyone who believes that life is a random process, that accidents and coincidences are just descriptive words with very little gravity to their definitions, I would suggest that this one moment in time disproves that "coincidences" are just a little quirk in the fabric of our existence.  This one hour show on television last night highlighted so many details that, had even one of them not occurred, we would have a very different, perhaps tragic story to remember about Flight 1549. 

Captain Sullenberger was a decorated Air Force fighter pilot who went on to log 29 years (and counting - he went back to work and is piloting planes again) as an airline pilot.  The most captivating detail is this:  Sullenberger is also a licensed glider pilot.  The years he spent logging hours and experience as a glider pilot became instrumental in controlling the forced ditched landing in the Hudson River of Flight 1549 when all power to the engines was lost. ( Pilot Profile)  In addition, Sullenberger is one of an elite few pilots who helped develop the training program "Crew Resource Management" (CRM), which is a mandatory program for commercial airline pilots to take, and teaches vital flight safety methods. 

Had even one of these details been different, if perhaps another pilot were at the controls that day, we don't know what the outcome might have been.  The happy fact is that all the planets lined up in ideal order for all those Souls on board Flight 1549 that day.  Would most people call this pure dumb luck?  A complete accident or coincidence?  I prefer to believe that there was a strong thread of Destiny woven into the life stories of all the people on that plane that day.  The result was, indeed, miraculous and it gave us an occurrence to marvel at, to be thankful for and, I believe, to restore faith in the hearts of many that yes, miracles do happen.  Happy Endings are possible, and all of 2009 wasn't a complete disaster to write off in our memories. 

Captain Chesley Sullenberger, for better or worse, became the focus of the world as a result of how he handled himself and that plane that day in January 2009.  He was thrust into a global spotlight that I daresay was an unexpected burden for a man who was just doing his job.  I heard him say in a television interview that after much introspection, he was finally able to recognize and come to peace with the fact that people had a need to identify with heroes and to apply that label to a tangible source.  His humility is rather stunning, and just deepens that Hero persona for many.  It is also appropriate to note that the whole crew of Flight 1549, along with all the First Responders who rushed to rescue on the Hudson River that day - they are all true Heroes.  Many of the passengers on Flight 1549 also performed feats of heroism. 

I've spoken of my own path during 2009 in various blog posts, and feel that despite the difficult challenges of that year, much of it was necessary to prepare me for things to come in my near future.  I can now look back on 2009 and mentally mark the special moments that glowed brightly.  The television show last night about The Miracle on the Hudson nudged me and reminded me that yes, amongst the roadblocks, challenges and disappointments, there were moments of breathtaking beauty.  I am certain that those of you reading this post can do the same.  Look back on 2009, push past the difficult times and focus - you'll find equally beautiful moments if you try.  In fact, they may jump out at you!

I went back through my Facebook posts that I wrote on New Year's Eve 2009, and on New Year's Day 2010 and felt they combined to produce a fitting close to this post.

"Here's wishing you and those you love blessings, good health, prosperity and a clear eye to recognize and appreciate all of the above as they shower down upon you!"   New Year's Eve 2009
"In the quiet space of morning today, I reflected on all the people who touched my life in 2009. I've been blessed with old friendships renewed, new friendships flourishing, wonderful family and so many unexpected happy moments. Love given is love returned, tenfold." New Year's Day 2010

For me, this is the unexpected beauty that I have found, in retrospect, of the year of 2009.  In the midst of adversity, I had my own miracles.  You did as well, and had anything changed slightly in how we lived that year, the outcome would also have changed.  I think we're all doing pretty well, and I'm glad I watched that program on TLC to remind me of the beauty of 2009.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Great Hug Debate

Hugging - Webster's Dictionary tells us that this is a transition verb, most likely of Scandinavian origin, deriving from the Old Norse word "hugga" (to soothe) with the modern day definition being to:

1. press tightly to
2. hold fast
3. stay close to
Okay, so we have the definition.  We all know what a hug is.  The interesting thing to me is how different people perceive the act of hugging.  How about you?  Are you an enthusiastic hugger?  Do you embrace others joyfully with both arms circling for a nice, long squeeze?  Or are you a hug avoider - one of those people who half-heartedly pats others on the back with one arm only, your torso angling away, the whole while sidling awkwardly and quickly out of reach?

As with most expressions of affection, there is no right or wrong answer.  Some of how you view the act of hugging has to do with the environment surrounding your formative years.  My very earliest memories are of my own family - a huge, very closely knit clan - being of the enthusiastic hugger variety.  This, in fact, wasn't always the case, and I didn't learn this until perhaps 15 years ago.  In a random conversation at one of our numerous family reunions (we have a lot of those), an Aunt commented on how much we do hug, and also commented that, "It wasn't always like that though - what made it change and the hugging get started?"  I remember my Mom answering, quite bluntly, "It was when we had all those people pass away so abruptly within such a short span of time."  That was a sobering realization, but also an uplifting one.

My Mom was talking about a two or three year span in the early 1970's where we lost a series of very dear family members - a Great Aunt, a Mother/Grandmother, an Aunt, and an Uncle.  My Mom is one of 9 siblings, so we are a huge group of people.  This means that death isn't an unknown element and some of these family members had lived long, full lives.  Two others were younger than I am today when they passed with very little warning.  I have no idea who began the practice of hugging during this time period, but it became part of our family ritual and happened when I was so wee that I don't remember life without hugs as a daily occurrence. 

What I feel is noteworthy in regard to my family is that we chose, collectively, to weather a series of tragic losses by growing closer, embracing both literally and figuratively, the ones still living.  The reverse could so easily have happened, with our family fracturing and growing apart.  I am happy to say that we chose the more positive path and this gave all of us an immensely strong foundation from which to draw upon.  I've often been known to state that hugs should be a form of world currency, and as corny and rose-colored glasses mindset as it sounds, I think hugs make us better people. Perhaps, in some small way, if anyone who knows me has always wondered at my enthusiastic hugging, this gives a small window into the birth of this tendency in me.

On a health benefits basis, hugs DO make a difference.  They have been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, thus reducing heart disease.  People who hug more frequently tend to be more open about their emotions and develop a greater sense of closeness and compassion to those around them.  Hugs have also been shown to improve overall mood, increase nerve activity and release the hormone oxytocin - this is the "love bonding" hormone that allows new parents, male and female alike, to bond with their babies. Hugging even helps to ease symptoms of insomnia and calms erratic brain waves. I could list many more benefits of hugging, but these alone are impressive.  Dare I suggest this could be called a true miracle application in a holistic health approach?

Several sources suggest that everyone needs at least four hugs a day for healthy survival, eight hugs a day for emotional strength, and 12 hugs a day to really grow and be empowered. Stop and think about just how often you give or get a hug.

It seems to be more common - and this isn't a gender bashing comment here - that men are less comfortable with hugging than women are.  In fact, this whole topic was sparked by a good natured debate on Facebook w/ a good male friend of mine.  He finally just suggested I write a blog, and the rest is're reading the result.  What do you feel is the reason for the Great Divide between genders regarding hugging?  Do you, personally, enjoy hugging, or do you dread it?  Do you hug with ease or dread the mere mention of the word, let alone the actual act of giving or receiving a hug?  I find this to be an interesting topic, and certainly one deserving of endless discussion.

I am a fan of hugging, for those of you who are curious, but perhaps you already got that from reading about my family history above.  In my personal world, with family, when we come together, hugs are the natural greeting and the same is true for when we depart from one anothers' presence.  I hug close friends with equal fervor - to me, it is a way of expressing genuine care, love, reassurance, beyond just being a happy greeting.  I feel that hugs matter, greatly.  This is my personal stance on The Great Hug Debate.  What's yours?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's "funny" how....

You know the old adage that says,
"Find what you love to do and make it your life's focus - this will ensure you'll never 'work' a day in your life."?
Would that this advice were easily accomplished!  I speak in jest a wee bit here; most people know from a very early age where they have a stronger interest and inclination in the business world and they pursue that direction with general success. 

I was what you might call a late bloomer in this regard.  I knew from a very early age that writing came easily to me.  I went through grade school, high school and college years being told by countless teachers and professors that I had a gift and talent for writing.  You would think this would have rung some sort of bell over my fair head that the logical thought of, "HEY!  Pay attention here - you're supposed to be making a living as a writer!" would magically click.  It didn't, as bizarre as that sounds, not for more years than I care to admit. 

I spent long, countless years in misery in the retail world...cosmetics, high end jewelry, art galleries, moving eventually into management with many of these.  For the longest time I could not get shed of a sales driven environment.  While I did that type of work very well, the daily warnings that we were all only as good as our last sale, or only as good as my store's last weeks' numbers just sucked my Soul completely dry. 

I spent more years floundering about in the corporate business world until slowly, experiences began to coalesce and it finally became clear to me that this is what I love best...writing. Thus began the next phase in my personal journey to manifest this existing talent into a money making concern.  That, also, took longer than I would have preferred.  We contrary humans always want success to instantly come as soon as we identify where we want that success to happen, don't we?!

An interesting little sidenote is that all those years of retail misery have turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I now am embarking on a new writing genre for social media management.  The endless repetition of role playing for customers, the endless psychological tests taken to ascertain what "type" of core personality I and everyone else had (think Myers-Briggs stuff), the endless demands to come up with snappy, savvy rebuttals to all complaints or refusals to purchase - those have all stood me in good stead with writing equally snappy, savvy marketing copy.  File that one in the "Who knew? / Go figure! / Funny how!" column.

It's "funny" how the thing that came the easiest to me my whole life - writing - has turned out to be my true strength, foundation and joy.  "Funny" also, that it took so many years of going around and about the Back 40 to get here.  It's "funny" how all those detours, although pure misery to experience and plod through at the time, turned out to provide vital, core experiences from which to draw an immediate skillset and plug it into a still very new and growing phenomenon.  It's "funny" how all the things I felt, at the time, were distractions and inconsequential nonsense gave me an ability to adapt in a rapid-fire manner to address a given clients' needs for writing appropriate copy as a technical writer in various industry applications.

Finally, the fact that I have what I like to call a Low Boredom Threshold and a boundless curiosity about everything under the sun has proven, yet again, to serve me very well with this new endeavor of writing for social media.  I have always had this driving need inside to conquer new territories, learn new things....a need to devour them voraciously until I reached a personal satisfaction level that I knew that topic or experience to the best of my ability.  That is one of my favorite things in the world to do.  Then I'm on to the next adventure, racing forward to conquer the next challenge.  It's "funny" how being a Jill of All Trades has, once again, proven to be a handy proverbial ink well in which to dip my writer's quill. 

Is there a point to this ramble?  Perhaps it would be to recognize that life's obstacles and road blocks, while at that moment instill untold levels of frustrations, are providing valuable training and life skills from which to draw for future success.  It's "funny" how that seems to work out.